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Kay going Cockney 'was a risk'

Published 30/04/2015

Jeff Pope has written several critically acclaimed dramas
Jeff Pope has written several critically acclaimed dramas

Casting northern comic Peter Kay to play a London docker could have been "like putting Kryptonite in Superman's pocket", according to the man who signed him up for the role.

Jeff Pope admitted Kay, best known for Phoenix Nights which is set in a northern working men's club, was not the obvious choice to play the father of broadcaster Danny Baker in a new BBC2 show.

Cradle To Grave, set to be broadcast later this year, is based on Baker's memoir Going To Sea In A Sieve and Kay, from Bolton, plays his father Fred in the show, which is set in 1970s south London.

Pope, responsible for some of the biggest TV hits of recent years including Cilla and Appropriate Adult, compared it to the mysterious substance from the Superman stories which rendered the hero helpless if he was exposed to it.

He said: "I did think it was like putting Kryptonite in Superman's pocket. Was taking Peter out of Lancashire a bit like cutting Sansom's hair but I'm pleased to report it's not at all.

"One thing about Peter is he is a perfectionist and not only did he want to do a Cockney accent, he wanted to do a south-east London one and he's done it."

Pope, who will be honoured with a special award at this year's TV Baftas, is currently working on a show inspired by the Shannon Matthews case.

The schoolgirl was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008, sparking a massive police investigation.

But she was discovered 24 days later at the home of her stepfather's uncle, Michael Donovan, less than a mile away, where she had been imprisoned as part of a plan he and Shannon's mother hatched to claim a £50,000 reward.

Pope said: "That estate, the Moorside Estate, was written off as being full of feckless people but they got together and organised a search and found Shannon alive. The euphoria was immense but then slowly punctured when they realised what had happened and the show is about how that place recovered from that betrayal."

He will accept his award at the event, formally known as the House of Fraser British Academy Television Awards, which is hosted by Graham Norton at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, and broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday May 10.

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